Sunday, 1 May 2011

Why I'm Voting Yes to AV

David Cameron, George Osborne, William Hague, Jeremy Hunt, Daniel Hanan (MEP), Matthew Sinclair (Founder, Tax-dodgers Alliance), David Blunkett, Dr John Reid, John Prescott & Margaret Beckett.

You know, I can’t personally think of 10 better reasons to vote yes to AV than the knowledge that the above people favour the status quo.  All of them favour first past the post, not for fine upstanding reasons but because all would retain their electoral advantage/influence.  The 5 Tories would be happy because, well every post war General Election win was obtained with a share of the vote under 50% (with the wins in 1955, 59 and 70 seeing the share of the vote creep over 45%).  Their 8 post war wins have all been based on vote for us because we will keep the other lot out.  To be fair though, Labour also revert to that line of campaigning – if you’re not voting for us you must be a Tory.

This is the main reason why both the Tories & certain New Labour figures are pro FPTP.  The idea that there is no alternative to the other lot is a powerful one and one that kept the brothers together when Blair was pushing through some pretty Thatcherite legislation.  But it is one that is loosing its power, both with the growth of the Liberal Democrats at national level, and the continued professional performances of the SNP in the Scottish Parliament.  Interestingly, John Reid talked about the fairness of the FPTP system, Reid would know all about fairness having helped to hound the fair Elizabeth Filkin out of her post as Parliamentery watchdog.

AV means that parties will have to try and gather votes from people who would not put their X in the box for that party but might be prepared to vote for them in a preference system.  It means that candidates have to try and poll (through 2nd and 3rd preference votes) over 50% of the vote to be elected.  No more MP’s elected with under 40% of the vote.  Yes, its not as proportional as say STV (used in council elections here), but it is a step in the right direction.

What has marked this campaign out though is the number of untruths in circulation about AV.  The leaflet received last week here contains at least one lie and several facts that are dubious to say the least.  The lie is that only three countries in the planet use it.  It is used here in the UK, with council by-elections using AV – I voted that way in the recent council by-election.  Both Cameron and Ed Miliband were elected to their positions as Party leaders by AV.

The leaflet quotes the figure of £26 million to explain the voting system to voters – it also rather patronisingly says “do we really need to complicate things with another?” – but there is no explanation as to where this figure came from.  There is also no explanation as to where the figure for “electronic vote counting machines” – put at £130 million – has been arrived at.  This seems to have convinced at least one blogger.  Yet if we are in the realms of cutting things back because they cost money, then how much did Friday’s show of royal largesse cost?  The leaflet also says “AV would give the Lib Dems more seats.  That would mean more hung parliaments…”  Well why shouldn’t they, when they gathered 6.5 million votes at the last General Election, 2 million less (and about 200 seats less) than Labour.  Most Psepologists though seem to think that under AV, every Westminster election would have produced the same outcome, with the Thatcher win in 1983 and Blair’s win in 1997 producing bigger majorities.  The only election that would have produced a hung parliament would have been the 2010 election… which of course produced one with FPTP.

I think that AV is a step away from our tired FPTP system that forces people to vote against a party, not for a party.  That the No to AV camp feels the need to scare, to put unsubstantiated figures into the public domain and to spin its alleged complexity & obscurity shows the hollowness of their arguments.  Unfortunately the polling suggests that they are winning.

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